Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

NEW YORK (AP) — Stock futures rose Tuesday, a day after fears about European debt sparked …

US stock futures edge up after steep declines
May 24, 2011, 8:44 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

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NEW YORK (AP) — Stock futures rose Tuesday, a day after fears about European debt sparked steep declines in financial markets around the world.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures are up 39, or 0.3 percent, at 12,401. Standard & Poor’s 500 futures are up 5, or 0.4 percent, at 1,319. Nasdaq 100 futures are up 7, or 0.3, at 2,322.

The modest advance in futures trading came despite more troubling news about the state of European debt management.

Greece‘s main opposition party said it opposed the government’s new austerity measures. The announcement dashed hopes that the country might be able to repair its finances enough to get another loan package from the International Monetary Fund.

Ratings agency Moody’s warned that a Greek restructuring of its debt would constitute a default. Moody’s said such a move would hurt the credit ratings of Greece and other debt-laden European countries. The ratings agency also said it would review 14 British financial institutions for a possible downgrade.

Nonetheless, European stocks recovered Tuesday after Monday’s declines.

The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.4 percent in midday trading. Germany’s DAX rose 0.7 percent and the CAC-40 in France was 0.2 percent higher. The euro also rose slightly against the dollar after falling to a two-month low Monday.

In economic news, the Commerce Department is expected to report at 10 a.m. Eastern on how many new homes were bought in April, offering traders a glimpse at the housing market.

Analysts expect sales to have been roughly flat, rising slightly to an annual rate of 303,000 from 300,000 in March. That is still far below the 700,000 in annual sales seen as representing a healthy market.

New homes are unappealing to budget-conscious families because their median price is nearly 31 percent higher than previously-occupied homes. That’s twice the price difference typical of a healthy economy. At their current rate, new-home sales are on track to experience a sixth straight year of declines.

The Dow fell as much as 180 points Monday before paring back some of its losses after Greece, Italy and Spain suffered weekend setbacks in their attempts to control their debt. The Dow fell 130.78 points, or 1 percent, to close at 12,381.26.The S&P 500 index lost 15.90, or 1.2 percent, to 1,317.37. The Nasdaq dropped 44.42, or 1.6 percent, to 2,758.90.


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2 out of 5 Americans believe the economy will get better

Americans more upbeat about economy
May 12, 2011, 10:01 a.m. EDT
Associated Press

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans are growing more optimistic about the U.S. economy, a sentiment that is benefiting President Barack Obama despite public disenchantment with his handling of rising gasoline prices and swollen government budget deficits.

An Associated Press-GfK poll shows that more than 2 out of 5 people believe the U.S. economy will get better, while a third think it will stay the same and nearly a fourth think it will get worse, a rebound from last month’s more pessimistic attitude. And, for the first time since the 100-day mark of his presidency, slightly more than half approve of Obama’s stewardship of the economy.

Both findings represent a boost for Obama, though he still must overcome ill will over government red ink and the price of gas at the pump, now hovering around $4 a gallon.

But the public’s brighter economic outlook also could signal a boost to the current recovery, which relies to a great degree on consumer behavior. A public that is confident about economic performance is more likely to spend more and accelerate the economy’s resurgence.

The poll was conducted May 5-9 in the aftermath of the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The spike in public esteem for Obama as a result of that successful clandestine mission may have helped Obama’s standing on issues other than national security.

The poll coincides with renewed attention in Washington to the nation’s growing debt and the federal government’s long-term budget deficits, so any positive signs from the public could help Obama push his policy proposals. A bipartisan team of lawmakers is working with Vice President Joe Biden to identify spending cuts. Meanwhile, lawmakers also are discussing major structural changes to the tax system and to the government’s mammoth benefits programs of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The results of the AP-GfK poll stood out because other surveys taken after bin Laden’s death, while showing a spike in support for the president, continued to indicate dissatisfaction by a majority for his handling of the economy. Still, like the AP-GfK poll, other surveys also found American attitudes about the state of the nation improving.

Forty-five percent of those polled in the AP-GfK survey said the country was now moving in the right direction, an increase of 10 percentage points from five weeks ago. And attitudes about life in general remained positive, with 4 out of 5 respondents saying they were happy or somewhat happy with their circumstances.

“Once you hit bottom the only one way to go is up,” said John Bair, 23, a photographer and filmmaker from Pittsburgh. “Everybody that I come in contact with seems to be on the upswing. I consider that a pretty good thing.”

But Bair, who describes himself as a moderate to conservative independent, doesn’t believe Obama deserves re-election. He strongly disapproves of the president’s handling of gasoline prices and says Obama should do more to increase domestic production of oil.

“When I’m paying $4 for a gallon of gas, it gets me wondering what’s going on,” he said.

Obama has tried to appear engaged on gas prices even though there is little presidents can do to alter market fluctuations. He has called for new renewable energy policies and for eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies, while conceding those steps will not address the current price increases. The efforts have not given the public much to cheer about, however. A total of 61 percent disapprove of Obama’s approach to the rising cost of gasoline.

Indeed, for all the long-term confidence that the economy will recover, the public is hardly upbeat about the current state of things. Only 21 percent describe the economy as good and 73 percent describe it as poor. About 1 in 5 thought the economy got better during the past month; an equal number thought it got worse.

A favorable jobs report last Friday showed that private companies had exceeded expectations by creating 268,000 jobs last month, the third month of at least 200,000 new jobs. And while unemployment has dropped from a high of 10.1 percent nationally in October 2009, it is now 9 percent, the same as in January.

“We haven’t done anything to create the jobs that (Obama) promised —that all of them promised,” said John Grezaffi, 60, a rancher from Pointe Coupee Parish, La.

Grezaffi, taking a short break from working to shore up his land against a rising Mississippi River on Wednesday, said he somewhat supports Obama but does not support his handling of the economy and believes the country is moving in the wrong direction.

Approaching retirement age, he said he wasn’t eager to see his upcoming benefits shortchanged.

“I’m willing to give up a little, but not everything when you see the waste that occurs in so many other areas,” he said.

Deana Floss, 39, a Springfield, Ohio, restaurant cook and owner of a cleaning business, voiced lukewarm approval for Obama even though she doesn’t care for the state of the economy or Obama’s handling of the nation’s budget deficits.

“I don’t think he has done a very bad job with the economy,” she said. “It was already going downhill when he took the reins.”

The Associated Press-GfK Poll was conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.


Associated Press Deputy Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.




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Poll: US economy improving despite global events

Poll: US economy improving despite global events
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WASHINGTON (AP)Economists say the U.S. economy is gaining strength despite political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East and last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

A survey from the National Association for Business Economics finds that economists are hopeful that the broader economy is substantially improving, with rising employment reported for the fifth quarter in a row. The survey found that “companies appear to be positioning themselves for a firming economic environment,” said Shawn DuBravac, an economist with the Consumer Electronics Association, who analyzed the findings.

The outlook for employment rose slightly, reaching a 12-year high. No firms reported significant layoffs, with the only reductions coming from already planned cuts.

Sales increased for the third consecutive quarter, profit margins continued to improve and the number of economists whose firms increased spending over the previous quarter held steady. Nearly all of the 72 economists surveyed, about 94 percent, now expect the economy to grow at least 2 percent in 2011.

The quarterly survey includes the views of economists for private companies and trade groups who are NABE members. The data are reported by broad industry groupings. Many results in the survey are expressed through the Net Rising Index, or NRI — the percentage of panelists reporting better outlooks minus the percentage whose outlook is bleaker.

The survey looked at two new questions for its April survey, gauging the financial impact of anti-government unrest in the Arab world and the deadly Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Nearly 60 percent of those polled said they expected higher costs because of political turmoil in Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria and about 52 percent said they expected economic growth to be weaker in 2011 because of the protests and fighting.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which left nearly 28,000 people dead or missing and sparked a crisis at a nuclear plant, had less of an impact on the economic forecasts. About 31 percent said costs would be higher and 40 percent said it would weaken the broader economic recovery.

In the first quarter of this year, 63 percent of economists said sales rose from the previous quarter — the highest percentage since 1994. The NRI rating for sales rose 11 points from the previous quarter to 54, and the improvement was across all industry sectors: goods, utilities, information and communications, finance, insurance and real estate, and services.

Profit margins rose to an NRI figure of 31 — the highest rating since 1983. The number of economists reporting rising profits has almost doubled over the past year, to 45 percent from 25 percent.

Prices rose, with about one third of those surveyed saying their firms had made increases over the past three months. Two-thirds of the goods-producing industry, which includes farming, mining, construction and manufacturing, reported their firms had raised prices. Similarly, the costs paid for materials rose for the third quarter in a row and wages and salaries jumped to the highest reading since a survey in October 2007.

The survey was conducted between March 16 and 31.


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Obama administration warned federal government shutdown would undermine the economic recovery

Obama administration: Shutdown would hurt economy
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal government shutdown would undermine the economic recovery, delay pay to U.S. troops fighting in three wars, slow the processing of tax returns and limit small business loans and government-guaranteed mortgages during peak home buying season.

The dire message, delivered two days before the federal government’s current spending authority expires, appeared aimed at jolting congressional Republicans into a budget compromise. Billions of dollars apart, congressional negotiators were working to strike a deal by Friday that averts a shutdown by setting federal spending limits through the end of September. The last such shutdown took place 15 years ago and lasted 21 days.

President Barack Obama told congressional leaders he would have them back at the White House on Wednesday if they didn’t make progress. Obama did call House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday morning. Boehner’s office said the call lasted just three minutes and that the speaker told Obama he was hopeful a deal could be reached.

As the talks continued, the White House sought to put the prospect of a shutdown in terms people would care about, warning even that the beloved Cherry Blossom parade in the nation’s capital would be wiped out. The Smithsonian Institution and national parks around the country would also be closed.

A shutdown would come at an especially busy time for the Smithsonian. The Cherry Blossom Festival, which concludes this weekend, draws many tourists to an area near the museums. The Smithsonian counts about 3 million visits each April and has already sold 23,000 IMAX movie and lunch combos to school groups for the month.

Under long-standing federal rules, agencies would not be affected that provide for U.S. national security, dispense most types of federal benefit payments, offer inpatient medical care or outpatient emergency care, ensure the safe use of food and drugs, manage air traffic, protect and monitor borders and coastlines, guard prisoners, conduct criminal investigations and law enforcement, oversee power distribution and oversee banks.

Under the shutdown scenario described by the administration, the government would have to significantly cut staffing across the executive branch, including workers at the White House and civilian employees at the Defense Department; close to 800,000 workers would be affected. Congress and the federal court system will also be subject to a shutdown.

At the Pentagon, defense officials were finalizing plans that would lay out how the department would deal with a shutdown. But they already have acknowledged that U.S. military troops — including those in war zones — would receive one-week’s pay instead of two in their next paycheck if the government closes.

Military personnel at home and abroad would continue to earn pay, but they won’t get paychecks until there is a budget agreement and government operations resume.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the Pentagon will be open on Monday and will be staffed. He said decisions on which Defense Department employees must report to work will depend on their jobs, rather than where they are based.

Key national security responsibilities, including operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and earthquake assistance to Japan would not be interrupted by a shutdown, the Pentagon said.

The CIA also won’t be closing, though it will be drawing down some non-essential personnel, to be in compliance with federal law, according to a senior intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence.

Officials familiar with the shutdown say essential counterterrorism functions in other parts of the intelligence community will continue, like monitoring of the terrorist watch lists, and essential intelligence collection and analysis.

At the Internal Revenue Service, the tax filing deadline remains April 18 — delayed three days because of a local holiday in Washington. Tax audits, however, will be suspended if there is a shutdown.

The IRS won’t process paper returns during a shutdown. Those expecting a refund should file their returns electronically and ask that the money be deposited directly into their bank accounts. Tax payments are welcome, though it is still unclear whether help lines for taxpayers will be staffed.

Social Security payments will continue to be delivered, and applications for benefits will continue to be processed. But some services will be limited, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said.

“The checks will continue to go out. The problem will be on an extended CR, it will be increasingly difficult to get changes in address, changes in status, and those types of things done,” Astrue said.

Astrue said Social Security headquarters and field offices will be closed. Some limited services will still be available at field offices, but the details are still being worked out, he said.

Medicare would still pay medical claims for its 48 million recipients, who are mainly seniors but also several million younger people who are permanently disabled or have kidney failure. Payments to doctors, hospitals and other service providers could be delayed, however, should a shutdown continue for several months.

At the National Institutes of Health, groundbreaking medical research would experience a disruption. Patients already being treated at the NIH’s famed hospital in Bethesda, Md., would continue to get that care, but new patients could not be admitted. Likewise, no new studies of drugs or other treatments could begin.

The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, would stop guaranteeing loans. The issuance of government backed loans to small businesses would be suspended, according to the White House.

The Obama administration said the impact on the housing market would be more severe than in 1995, the last time there was a government shutdown. The Federal Housing Administration accounts for 30 percent of the mortgage market, nearly three times the amount 16 years ago.

Among other consequences cited by the administration:

—The Environmental Protection Agency would cease issuing permits and stop reviewing environmental impact statements which will slow approval of projects.

— Most government websites would not be updated, unless they were deemed essential.

— The Environmental Protection Agency will stop issuing permits of industrial facilities for air, land and water pollution limits.

— Federal courts would be unable to hear cases as employees like clerks, stenographers, bailiffs, and security guards would not be at work.


Associated Press writers Lolita Baldor, Anne Gearan, Stephen Ohlemacher, Lauran Neergard, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Brett Zongker contributed to this report.


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Taiwan: Japan quake may cut economic growth

Taiwan: Japan quake may cut economic growth
Associated Press
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TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A senior Taiwanese official says the recent Japan earthquake may cut Taiwan’s economic growth by 0.2 percentage point this year.

Taiwan Premier Wu Den-yih said Tuesday that local industries are feeling repercussions from the disaster, but some Taiwanese liquid crystal display and semiconductor components makers have got more orders from Japanese clients following the quake.

“Our worst estimate is our economic growth will lose 0.2 percentage point over the quake, but our best assessment is the economy will not be affected as the extra orders Taiwanese companies have received will offset the negative impact,” Wu said.

Japan is Taiwan’s second biggest trading partner. Taiwan officials predicted before the quake the island’s economy will grow 4.9 percent in 2011.


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Obama links Brazil trip to job growth back home

Obama links Brazil trip to job growth back home
Associated Press
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BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Seeking to link his Latin American tour to job growth back home, President Barack Obama said Saturday the U.S. was eager to sell its goods and services to economically booming Brazil’s growing middle class. The president’s economic message, however, was overshadowed by events in Libya, where a western coalition launched a risky offensive against Moammar Gadhafi.

After an early morning arrival in Brazil’s capital, Obama held meetings with newly elected President Dilma Rousseff, then addressed a joint meeting of U.S. and Brazilian business leaders. He praised Brazil’s economic ascent, and said American workers stood to benefit from increased ties with the world’s seventh-largest economy

“As the United States looks to Brazil, we see the chance to sell more goods and services to a rapidly-growing market of around 200 million consumers,” Obama said. “For us, this is a jobs strategy.”

Executives from a number of American corporations, including International Paper, Cargill, Citigroup and Coca-Cola, participated in the CEO session.

Obama began his three-country, five-day tour of Latin America against the backdrop of ominous developments in earthquake-ravaged Japan, where officials struggle to prevent a meltdown at a damaged nuclear power plant, and in Libya, where a U.S. and European coalition launched a risky military operation to protect civilians from attacks by Gadhafi’s force.

The White House said Obama was briefed on developments in Libya early Saturday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and national security adviser Tom Donilon.

Brazil stands out for its strategic and economic importance to the United States. As the world’s seventh-largest economy, it is a member of an exclusive club of influential developing nations along with Russia, India and China, collectively known in economic circles as the BRIC nations. Obama is looking to reset the U.S. relationship with Brazil, an emerging economic power that even without being hostile has annoyed Washington with its independent ways.

Rousseff extended a warm welcome to Obama, citing his role as the first African American president and hers as the first female Brazilian president as evidence of nations overcoming barriers.

She said that of all U.S. presidents who have visited Brazil, “You are the one that sees our country in the most vibrant moment.”

Still, Rousseff made no effort to hide her frustration with the resistance Brazil has faced in becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and appealed for Obama’s help in making needed changes at the U.N. She also chafed at US. policies that have imposed tariffs on Brazilian goods, including ethanol and cotton, and appealed for concrete action to improve the economic ties.

“In the past this relationship was overshadowed by empty rhetoric,” she said.

In a joint statement, Obama and Rousseff said the Security Council needs to reform and voiced support for a “modest expansion” that adds representation. But the statement said only that Obama “expressed appreciation for Brazil’s aspiration to become a permanent member of the Security Council.” The statement fell short of Obama’s November endorsement of India’s quest for a permanent seat on the Security Council, saying it would elevate India to “its rightful place in the world.”

Obama began his Latin America trip on schedule, despite ominous developments in earthquake-ravaged Japan, where officials struggle to prevent a meltdown at a damaged nuclear power plant, and in Libya, where a U.S. and European coalition launched a military operation to protect civilians from attacks by Gadhafi’s force.

Obama left Washington just hours after the coalition agreed to use all necessary measures to stop Gadhafi, raising the prospect that he would have to authorize military action from a foreign land. Leaders from the Arab world, the United States and other Western powers were holding emergency talks in Paris on Saturday over possible military action as Gadhafi’s troops swarmed into the one-time rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Obama said Saturday that the United States and its allies are prepared to act with urgency.

“Our consensus was strong, and our resolve is clear. The people of Libya must be protected, and in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians our coalition is prepared to act, and to act with urgency,” Obama said.

Air Force One touched down in Brasilia in an early-morning mix of sunshine and raindrops with the president, Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia aboard. Several hours later the president and Mrs. Obama met with Rousseff at the presidential palace in an elaborate arrival ceremony featuring color guards and children waving American and Brazilian flag.

The Obamas were to depart for Rio de Janeiro Saturday night. After Brazil, Obama travels to Chile, which has established itself as one of the wealthier nations in South America. His third and final stop is in El Salvador.

Obama’s stop in Brazil represents a chance to engage with Rousseff and get a firsthand assessment of what administration officials believe is her practical approach to governance and foreign relations after eight years of the flamboyant Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, commonly known as Lula.

But as Obama and Rousseff were poised to meet, a disagreement between their administrations had already changed the dynamic of the trip. The Brazilian leader did not want to have reporters ask the two presidents questions — after the White House had already promised a news conference — so that event was scrapped. The two leaders instead issued statements.

A spokesman at the Brazilian presidential palace, who declined to be identified in line with internal regulations, said he did not know why no questions would be taken.

Rousseff, unlike her charismatic predecessor Silva, who spoke with the news media nearly every day, has rarely given news conferences in her three months in power and almost never gives interviews. During her campaign for the presidency last year she often seemed uncomfortable in public and was criticized for a mechanical speaking style.

The trip comes as China has surpassed the United States as Brazil’s top trading partner and in the wake of recent discoveries of vast oil reserves off the Brazilian coast. The reserves — estimated at between 30 billion and 80 billion barrels — place Brazil in the top 10 countries in the world in reserves. Since Brazil is energy self-sufficient, that oil would all be available for export.

Brazil is also a giant agricultural exporter, competing head-to-head with the United States.


Associated Press writers Ben Feller in Brasilia and Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo, Brazil, contributed to this report.

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Obama seeks closer ties in Brazil

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Consumer price inflation in Britain rose to 4.4 percent in February, boosting case for rate hike

UK inflation up again, boosting case for rate hike
Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — Consumer price inflation in Britain rose to 4.4 percent in February, officials statistics showed Tuesday, higher than the market expected and putting more pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

The figure immediately boosted the pound, which hit a 15-month high, on expectations the central bank will move to fight inflation earlier than expected. The Bank of England has held its key interest rate at an all-time low for two years due to fears economic growth is still weak, but the acceleration in price increases — inflation has been above target for 15 months — is making policymakers nervous.

Adding to the bad news, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed public sector net borrowing was 11.8 billion pounds ($19.3 billion) in February, well above market forecasts of 7.7 billion pounds and narrowing the options for the government a day before it lays out its spending program.

“February’s public finances and consumer prices numbers present a distinctly unfavorable backdrop to tomorrow’s budget,” said Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics.

“The further rise in CPI inflation from 4 percent to 4.4 percent in February underlines the threat to the future path of the public finances from the squeeze on households’ spending power, and perhaps company profits, caused by high inflation,” Loynes added.

With two months to go in the fiscal year, borrowing has reached 123.5 billion pounds, more than earlier expected and giving the government less room in its budget for growth-supporting measures.

Consumer spending’s contribution to economic growth is likely to be suffering from the value-eroding effects of the high inflation.

The statistics agency said increases in the costs of domestic heating and clothing were the main drivers in pushing the inflation rate above January’s reading of 4 percent.

The broader retail prices index rose from 5.1 percent to 5.5 percent, again beating market forecasts.

Despite inflation fears, the Bank of England has held its key rate at an all-time low of 0.5 percent since March 2009. At least three members of the Bank’s nine-member Monetary Policy Committee, however, have voted to raise the rate. Minutes of the MPC’s March meeting will be released Wednesday will give clues to the trend of the committee’s thinking.

After Tuesday’s figures, the market moved to price in a higher chance of rate hike in coming months. The pound was 0.5 percent higher at $1.6388, just above its earlier high of $1.6397, which is its highest level since Jan. 19, 2010.

Howard Archer, European economist for IHS Global Insight, said the MPC may hold off on a rate hike in April, waiting to measure the impact of government cuts in spending and employment.

“Signs that consumers are currently reining in their spending is a particular concern,” Archer said. Conflict in Libya and the disaster in Japan add to uncertainty about the global economy, and may also make the MPC shy from a rate hike, he added.

The Bank of England’s governor, Mervyn King, has argued that British inflation is largely caused by rising prices for oil and commodities, factors which are impervious to national interest rates.

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Inflation rate increases to 4%

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